The Drunk Flamingo: Musings on Shoes


Having the right footwear in an emergency can mean the difference between getting where you need to go and finding yourself stuck spinning your wheels. Whether your style is Chuck Taylor or Jimmy Choo, your choice of footwear is a critical part of your personal protection system. Choosing your shoes should involve as much effort as choosing your concealment garments and, in this column, Doug shares some thoughts to get you started.

Last weekend I attended a wedding. Given the summer season, I selected a tan linen suit and chose to skip the tie. I put on my belt, shoes, gun, and knife and we headed out the door for a celebratory evening.

“It’s fun to get all dressed up,” my wife said, and she was right. Whether you work at a law firm or a landfill (enter lawyer jokes here), everybody likes putting on something special. Regardless of what you wear, however, it’s important to realize how your clothing choices affect your self-defense system.

“Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” – Marilyn Monroe

Of all the places you probably never expected to see a quote from Marilyn Monroe, Guns and Tactics Magazine is probably high on the list. However, as I realized at one point this particular evening, Marilyn may have been onto something.

As I was chatting with some friends, ironically about how one of them was preparing to take his daughter to the range for the first time, a woman walked up and joined our conversation. Little did she know that she would soon become the inspiration for this column.

“Have you ever seen a woman walk so awkwardly in high heels that she looked like a drunk flamingo?”

You’ve seen her before. She’s the one wearing the red dress who is wobbling around the room like a 132 pound strawberry jello jiggler. You know, she’s the one who has you convinced that, more likely than not, she’ll finish her night in the ER with a broken ankle once the DJ starts playing the Macarena? Yes, her… she’s the drunk flamingo.

“Why would you take your sweet daughter to the gun range? Guns are stupid,” the drunk flamingo in the peep-toe pumps proclaimed. “If someone had a gun here, I’d run and call the police.” Apparently the drunk flamingo doesn’t know us very well. My friend replied, “what do you mean, run? You can hardly walk in those shoes.” Embarrassed someone had noticed her instability, she soon left us as clumsily as she came.

Which brings me to the point of the post – the relationship between movement and footwear.

An important component of self-defense is movement. Whether you’re fleeing, moving to cover, making yourself a more challenging target to hit, or are advancing on the threat, the ability to move is critical… and you must be able to do it *right now* as things often happen without much warning. Your choice of footwear obviously plays into your ability, or inability, to move.

Men’s dress shoes commonly have slick soles with no tread whatsoever… and women’s dress shoes? Well, I’ve never seen a female Secret Service agent jogging with the Presidential motorcade in 6” stilettos. So then, what can we do to balance the need for movement with the desire for style?

For men, the simple answer is to buy dress shoes with a good rubber sole. There are many slick surfaces we may need to move across and having a little traction on your side can be a real gift when you need to move in a hurry. Even the carpet in my office building is slick enough that flat leather-soled shoes will slide. There are several brands out there of nice shoes with good soles, so do a little shopping and find something you like.

For women, however, the answer is a bit more complex and it seems there are far fewer off-the-shelf options that will allow movement quickly. In preparing for this column I asked a like-minded friend, who also happens to be a very well-dressed woman (you’d never expect she can conceal a J-frame and a knife under her mini-skirt), how she manages her clothing selections while being mindful of her personal protection system. Her answer was surprisingly simple.

She tries to wear something with a rubber sole and a good tread whenever it makes sense. When she’s not wearing sensible shoes, however, she’s likely to be found in a pair of tall, elegant, seductive heels… and she is no drunk flamingo. When she’s wearing these shoes, she applies adhesive rubber soles to the bottoms of them to increase traction and stability on slick surfaces.

When shopping for shoes, her first consideration is whether or not they are “cute.” Ok, so she won’t wear ugly shoes – fortunately, this isn’t a fashion column… but, her second consideration? Whether she can kick them off easily. Thus, any shoes she does like must also be able to be ditched in an instant and without having to use her hands or bend down to get them off.

She went on to describe several different types of heels and why she won’t wear them – boots, heels with straps or zippers, and apparently there are even heels with laces? Ultimately, it all came down to the fact that she wanted to be able to kick them off so she could move effectively, even if in bare feet. She recognizes that her bare feet aren’t going to work as well as a good pair of rubber-soled shoes, but they do work better than heels and that it’s a compromise she’s willing to make because she often needs (or wants) to wear them.

Taking the extra time to find a suitable pair of shoes is important when considering your personal protection system. You may not get a lot of notice when you need to move and, as a parent, you may need to pick up a little one and move them too. Wear shoes with a rubber sole and good traction. If that’s not possible, modify your footwear as best you can and be sure your shoes can be ditched quickly without using your hands or bending down to remove them.

Stay safe. Be prepared to protect yourself and those around you… and always be suspicious of drunk flamingos.